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SA-183 File No: 1-0118 

CIVIL AERONAUTICS BOARD 

ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION REPORT 

Adopted: July 14, 1949 Released: July 15, 1999 



AIRBORNE TRANSPORT, INC.-MIAMI, FLORIDA, DECEMBER28, 19*? 



- The Accident 

On December 28, 1948, a Douglas DC-3, 
":.] MC-16002, owned by Karl Knight of Miami, 
■■Florida, and leased to Airborne Transport, 
Inc. , an irregular air carrier disap- 
peared while en route from San Juan, 
Puerto Rico, to Miami, Florida. 

History of the Flight 

At 2203, 1 December 27, 1948, NC-16002 
'departed from Isla Grande Airport, San 
Juanj Puerto Rico, for Miami, Florida. 
According to the company passenger mani- 
fest filed with the Customs Department at 
San Juan, there were 29 passengers 
■aboard. The crew consisted of Captain 
Robert E. Linquist, Copilot E. E. Hill, 
; and Stewardess Mary Burke. 

Captain Linquist had filed an instru- 
ment flight plan with the CAA Air Route 
^Traffic Control Center and the Puerto 

Rican Transportation Authority; however, 
"this flight plan was cancelled after a 
:xdelay due to battery difficulties on the 
airplane* Subsequently the pilot was 
authorized a VFR takeoff with the under- 
standing that the flight was to remain 
in the vicinity of San Juan, and attempt 
;? to i establish radio contact with the 
;': tower. Once contact was established, an 

IFR flight plan would be filed enabling 
^ the aircraft to proceed to Miami. If 
^this was impossible, the aircraft was to 
return to San Juan. 

Eleven minutes after takeoff the 
-flight called the airport control tower. 
vThe control tower did not receive the 
^eall but it was intercepted by CAA Com- 
j jmini cations at San Juan, to which the 
^flight reported that it was proceeding 
to Miami, Florida, according to an IFR 
J%ilan. CAA Communications at San Juan 
^>ajs unable to contact the flight again, 
%althpugh numerous attempts were made. At 



: ^- :■ ill: tiaes rererred to herein are Eastern Stand- 
=gaip& and based on the 24-hour clocfc. 



2323, the Overseas Foreign Air Route 
Traffic Control Center at Miami, Florida, 
received a radio communication from NC- 
16002 stating it was flying at 8,500 
feet In accordance with instrument flight 
rules and that it estimated its time of 
arrival over South Caicos at 0033, and 
Miami at 0405, December 28, 1948. 
The New Orleans Overseas Foreign Air 
Route Traffic Control Center intercepted 
a position report from NC-16002 at 04*3, 
which stated it was 50 miles south of 
Miami. This was the last known contact 
with the aircraft. Unsuccessful attempts 
were made to contact the flight by CAA 
Communications from San Juan, Miami, and 
New Orleans. 

The Civil Aeronautics Board at Miami, 
Florida, was notified by CAA Communica- 
tions on December 28, 1948, at 0630, 
that NC-16002 was considerably overdue on 
a flight from San Juan, Puerto Rico, "to 
Miami, Florida. When it was definitely 
determined that the aircraft was missing, 
the United States Coast Guard was alerted 
and an extensive search was immediately 
started. 

Among those participating in the 
search were the U- S. Coast Guard, the 
U. S. Navy, the Fifth Rescue Squadron of 
the U. S. Air Forces and numerous civil 
aircraft. Also actively engaged in the 
search were agencies of the Government 
of Nassau, the Dominican Republic and 
the Cuban Government. The search 
covered an area from San Juan, Puerto 
Rico, to Cape San Bias in Florida, the 
peninsula of Florida and the southern 
coastal area of the United States to 
Cape Remain, which is located approxi- 
mately 45 miles north of Charleston, 
South Carolina. The Gulf of Mexico ad- 
jacent to the coast of Florida, the 
island of Cuba, the north coast of 
Hispaniola and the Bahama Islands were 
also searched. Z Oyer 1,300 plane hours 



See attached nap or area searched. 

(a 



Accident Investigation Re^t 



were flown during the six days of search, 
from December li8, 194a, to January 3, 
194&. In conjunction with the air 
.".search,, a detachment from the Fifth Res- 
cue Squadron, U. 3. Air Forces, conducted 
a thorough investigation and ground 
search of portions of the north coast of 
Cuba. The terrain was both mountainous 
and jungle, making the search difficult. 

Investigation 

The Civil Aeronautics Board Investiga- 
tors coordinated with the 0. E. Coast 
Guard and the Civil Aeronautics Adminis- 
tration, and the Board instituted an in- 
vestigation of the circumstances perti- 
nent to the flight. 

: The aircraft was inspected by a CAA 
Designated Aircraft Maintenance Inspector, 
and found -to be airworthy on December 29, 
194S, The last line Inspection report, 
dated December 27, 1V48, indicated that a 
generator voltage regulator was changed. 
Examination of the company records indi- 
cated that NC-1600£ had an annual Inspec- 
tion and was recertlficated on April 1, 
1048. '-'.[■ Company records showed that during 
Kovejfl&er 1848, the aircraft was given a 
partial overhaul, and two newly over- 

, fHJ&lid engines were installed. Subse- 

...;'-$ueil| to this overhaul the aircraft was 
fiewi IS hours, Including a round trip 

: ^be^een Miami and Teterbbro, New Jersey. 
;|fd 'eVldence of any malfunctioning for 
;thi:« -flying time was indicated in the 

: company records . 

' Further investigation revealed that 
the company's maintenance records were 
incomplete. Its Superintendent of Main- 
tenance stated that, at a regent date, 
new b&tterlen were Installed in NG-16002, 
but ho record of this installation was 
found* Also a San Juan repair agency re- 
ported that during October 1948, repair 
work was performed on a malfunctioning 
engine of BC^lBflOa. However, evidence 
that this work was accomplished was not 
feuttdy 

Oh December 27, 1948, at approximately 
194^»C-160C-2 landed at San Juan, Puerto 
Rlcd>^afier difficulty with the landing 
gear. Captain Linquist reportedly said 
that ; when ^the landing gear was lowered, 
the/iandihg^gear warning lights indicated 
that "the gear was not locked. A repair 
agency on the airport was contacted by 
the ^Captain and asked to examine the 

.- — 13147 ... ■* 



aircraft's batteries. They were found id: 
be discharged with the water level low. ^: 
Advised that it would take several hours 
to recharge the batteries to their proper 1 
operating capacity, the Captain asked I tfte> 
mechanic to add water and return the» ^tol' 
the aircraft without charging* The land- 
ing gear warning light system was re- 
ported as malfunctioning but was not re- 
paired. 

At 2030, the crew of NC-16O02 filed an 
IFR flight plan from San Juan to Miami, 
Florida, with the Flight Information v;. 
Clerk at the airport and the Captain 
stated the aircraft was in good working 
order. However, one hour later the . .: 
Flight Information Clerk was advised by ' 
the flight that the aircraft was having - 
battery trouble and would be delayed.' 1 
Due to. this delay, the flight plan toe- : 
came invalid. Investigation disclosed V 
that at approximately 2246, NC-16002 ~ - 
taxied to the end of Runway 27 and that 
the tower was unable to contact it by 
radio. The Chief of Aviation of the 
Puerto Rican Transportation Authority was 
Informed of this difficulty. Be immedi- 
ately proceeded to the aircraft where lie 
was advised by the crew that the air~; 
craft's radio receiver was functioning * - 
properly but that due to weak batteries 
the transmitter was not. After confer- 
ring with the crew and then With the ; 
tower by means of the emergency cat ^ ■■ ^ 
radio, the Chief of Aviation authorized 
the flight to make a VFR takeoff. ' It was 
agreed that the flight would remain in ; 
the vicinity of San Juan until suffieiefcit/ : 
power was produced by the generators to v 
transmit. If this was accomplished-^ 
new IFR plan was to have been filed aftd; : 
the flight could proceed to Miami. The 
flight departed at approximately 23G0;and 
eleven minutes later advised CAA Comsnini- 
catlons at San Juan it was unable to cott- 
tact the tower and was proceeding: to 
Miami on ah IFR plan. Messages were In- , 
tercepted from the flight while en route, 
but further attempts to contact the 
flight relative to the flight plan atid to 
ascertain its position were unsuccessful- ^ 

Examination of the weight and balance r ^ 
records of the flight indicated that the '-= f 
aircraft departed from San Juart with ^BBft^^ 
gallons of fuel aboard. From oontrA^iiSH ?■: 
tory weight and balance and passenger 
manifests prepared at San Juan, it .sp^^;^; 
pears that the aircraft was 119 



Occident Invest! flat I on Report 



3 



pounds overweight at the time of de- 
parture. 

Investigation of weather conditions 
existing between San Juan and Miami at 
the tine of takeoff showed scattered 
clouds at 2,500 feet with the visibility 
12 miles, and the wind calm at San Juan. 
At the cruising level of 8,500 feet, the 
aircraft would be above scattered clouds 
with light variable winds and with prob- 
ably a little drift to the right. Near 
South Calcos Island, the clouds would 
increase with tops extending up to and 
above the cruising level. Winds In this 
sector were approximately 10 miles per 
hour from the southwest. Approaching the 
Nassau and Miami areas, the clouds would 
become scattered and at 8, .500 feet the 
flight would be again on top. The wind 
in this sector was northeasterly at ap- 
proximately 10 miles per hour at the 
cruising level of 8,500 feet, and this 
fact was broadcast from Miami at 0015. 

Investigation further reveals that 
Captain Linquist had flown the San Juan- 
Miami run for Airborne Transport, Inc., 
as copilot but that this was his first 
trip as captain for that company. How- 
ever, he had flown the route for other 
companies and had had military flying ex- 
perience in the area. 

Analysis 

No examination of the wreckage was 
possible, as the aircraft is still miss- 
ing. From the foregoing Investigation 
it appears that the aircraft was In an 
airworthy condition at the time of de- 
parture from Miami, Florida, on December 
27, 1948. However, on landing at San 
Juan approximately seven hours later, 
difficulty was experienced with the land- 
ing gear warning lights. Though the 
aircraft batteries were found in a dis- 
charged condition they were returned to 
the aircraft without being recharged. 
No further examination of the aircraft's 
electrical system, landing gear, or its 
warning lights was made. Under normal 
operation, the batteries should have been 
charged to operating . capacity after the 
seven-hour flight to San Juan. At the 
time of departure from San Juan the air- 
craft's transmitter was not functioning, 
due to discharged batteries. There was 
no report of any malfunctioning of any 
part of the aircraft other than the 

— 15147 



electrical system, either on the flight 
to San Juan or while there. 

The flight was cleared VFR orally by 
the Chief of Aviation with the under- 
standing that it remain in the vicinity 
of San Juan until able to contact the . 
tower, at which time an IFR flight plan 
to Miami, when filed, would be approved. 
The basis of this agreement was the be- 
lief that the aircraft's generators 
would shortly produce sufficient current 
capacity to allow transmission. How- 
ever, the aircraft, took off, and without 
further contact with the tower, con tin - : 
ued on course. Although the original . 
IFR flight plan had been cancelled due 
to delay in departure it is believed 
that the pilot thought that it either : 
was, or could be, reinstated. This Is 
substantiated by the fact that eleven 
minutes after takeoff, CAA Communications 
in San Juan received a message from the 
flight which advised that it was unable 
to contact the tower and was proceeding 
on the IFR flight plan to Miami. 

Testimony indicated that the aircraft 
was properly equipped with flotation 
gear, and navigational equipment. It is 
known that the aircraft's transmitter 
was operating at 0413, December 28, 19-18, 
when the New Orleans Overseas Foreign 
Airways Communications Station Intercepted 
a position report which stated the flight 
was 50 miles south of Miami. It is 
possible, however, that some failure of 
the electrical system occurred subse- 
quent to this transmission, making the 
aircraft's radio and automatic compass 
inoperative. It is also possible that 
the pilot may have been in error as to 
his reported position. Since the air- 
craft had fuel for 7 l/'2 hours of flight, 
and since the last message was inter- 
cepted approximately six hours and 10 
minutes after takeoff, an error in 
location would be critical. 

A review of the weather along the 
route and at the time of the flight in- 
dicated a change in wind direction from 
northwest to northeast as the flight neared 
Miami with no change in wind velocity from 
what was forecast. Without cVew knowl-: 
edge of this change, the aircraft could 
have drifted to the left of the course 
some 40-50 miles. This information was 
broadcast froin Miami at 0015, but it is 
not known whether the flight received it. 



3M 



Accident Investigation Np§r|| 



The route between San Juan and. Miami 
and the adjacent areas have considerable 
air and marine traffic and should the 
aircraft be found, the wreckage will be 
examined and a supplemental report will 
be Issued by the Board. 

Findings 

On the basis of all available evidence 
the Board finds that: 

1. The carrier, aircraft, and the 
crew were certificated; however, at the 
time of take-off, the aircraft did not 
meet the requirements of the operating 
certificate. 

2. The aircraft's batteries, when 
examined at San Juan, were found in a 
discharged condition and returned to the 
aircraft without being recharged. 

3. The aircraft's electrical system, 
including the transmitter, was malfunc- 
tioning at the time of departure from 
San Juan. 

4. Eleven minutes after takeoff, 
two-way communication was established 
between the flight and the Overseas 
Foreign Airways Communication Station at 
San Juan. 

5. Messages from the flight, were 
intercepted by the Overseas Foreign Air- 
ways Communication Stations _ at Miami, 
Florida, and New Orleans, i-QUisiana, but 
neither was able to contact the flight. 

— 15147 



6. An unpredicted wind change from. ., 
northwest to northeast occurred en ' ';i : 'AV ■'■': 
route. ■ ^ 

7. The last reported- position of t&ej .- 
aircraft was 50 miles south of Miami, /»i^ : 
which time the aircraft was six hours and 
ten minutes out of San Juan. :V ; 

8. The aircraft had fuel for 7 1/2 -^ 
hours of flight. 

9. An extensive search by the Search- 
and Rescue Agency of the United States 
Coast Guard, utilizing facilities of 
other services, civil aircraft and ground/;' 
parties, failed to locate any trace of 
the missing aircraft and was terminated ^ 
six days later. 

Probable Cause v i 

The Board lacks sufficient information 
in this case to determine the probable 

cause. .^/^.±M . 

BY THE CIVIL AERONAUTICS BOARD: 

fsf JOSEPH J. 'COHSELl , JB.^ 

Is) OSWALD RYAN 

h/ JOSH LEE 

I si BAROLD A. JOHES . Vv" 

Russell B. Adams, Member of the Board, 
did not participate in the adoption of 
this report. 



Supplemental Date 



Investigation and Hearing 

The Civil Aeronautics Board's Miami, 
Florida, office, was notified 0830, De- 
cember 28, 1948, by CAA Communications 
that HC-16002 was considerably overdue 
on a flight from San Juan, Puerto Rico, 
to Miami, Florida. An investigation was 
begun Immediately In accordance with the 
provisions of Section 702 (a) (8) of the 
C1V11 Aeronautics Act of 1938, as 
amended. As a part of the Investigation, 
a hearing was held February IS, 1940, at 
Coral Gables, Florida. 

Air Carrier 

. airborne Transport, Inc., was Incor- 
porated under the laws of the State of 
New York with its principal office at 
New York, N. Y. The company held a 
letter of registration, No. 1937, issued 
to It pursuant to Section 292.1 of the 
Economic Regulations and an operating 
certificate No. 1-6S4, Issued by the Ad- 
ministrator of Civil Aeronautics. 

— 1S147 



Mlfjht Personnel 

Pilot R. E. Linqulst, age 28, held an 
airman certificate with a commercial 
pilot and instrument rating. His last 
Instrument check was accomplished October 
6, 1948, and he received hie last CAA 
physical examination January 29, 1948. 
Be had a total of 3,265 flying hours. 

Copilot E. E. Hill, age '22, held an 
airman certificate with a commercial 
pilot and Instrument rating. His last 
Instrument check was accomplished July 
31, 1948, and his last CAA physical ex- 
amination May 17, 1948. When the acci- 
dent occurred he had a. total of 197 : 
flying hours. 

The Aircraft 

KC-16002 was a Douglas DC-3. It was 
manufactured June 12, 1936, had a total 
of 28,257 hours and was currently cer- 
tificated. The aircraft was equipped 
with two Wright 1820-G102A engines with . 
Hamilton Standard Hydromatlc Propellers. 
(II 



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